A dangerous precedent

September 10, 2009

We, the undersigned, are psychologists alarmed by the treatment of our colleagues at the University of Surrey.

As part of the university's plan to reduce its financial deficit, the department of psychology was in effect told that it had to lose seven members of staff. We understand that individuals were then faced with an impossible choice. They either had to give up their jobs immediately with a small financial cushion, or gamble on winning a "musical-chairs" contest against their colleagues for one of the reduced number of posts - but face losing that cushion if they failed. A number of them felt that the way in which the new posts were defined placed them at a considerable disadvantage. Unsurprisingly, they opted to go.

Management has sought to represent this as a matter of voluntary choice. However, we regard it as amounting to sacking people. Certainly, those who accepted the package have said that they did not want to go but felt they had no option.

This is a tragedy for the individuals involved and for our discipline - we have lost excellent colleagues with international reputations. Worse, it also gives a green light to any other institution that wishes to deal with the financial climate by pressuring staff to leave. It threatens all our jobs.

We feel that events at Surrey constitute a dangerous precedent that needs to be challenged. Unless there is collective action to challenge the options favoured by management, many more of us - and not just in psychology - will be forced to choose between jumping and being pushed. The effect will be that management will hide many more institutionally imposed job losses behind the benign face of individual choice.

Charles Antaki, University of Loughborough

Susan Condor, University of Lancaster

Steve Reicher, University of St Andrews

Margaret Wetherell, The Open University and 182 others

For the full list, see: www-staff.lboro.ac.uk/~ssca1/surrey.htm.

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